The uptight ThinkPad image has been taken in a relatively bold new direction with the Edge line. The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge is a budget business laptop for those who want a machine that can do double duty as a personal gadget. Using AMD or Intel ultra-low-voltage processors, the laptops in the Edge line have added gloss and silver touches, and skip the optical drive -- a risky move for a 13.3-inch laptop. They even come in red versions.
The Edge has a low starting price of about £500, although that's with an AMD processor. Intel configurations of the Edge start at around £700, which is what our review version costs, with 4GB of RAM, a Core 2 Duo SU7300 CPU and a 320GB hard drive.
Missing optical drive
The Edge has no optical drive, which might annoy some people. On the other hand, its design is compact and clean. Its battery protrudes only slightly from the laptop's underside. With a lid covered in glossy black plastic and fairly cheap-looking silvery edges, our Edge review sample has an appearance much closer to a Lenovo IdeaPad than a ThinkPad.
The overly flat and slick lid is too much for our tastes, and the over-abundance of matte plastic surrounding the 13.3-inch LED-backlit screen gives the machine a somewhat budget appearance -- but the Edge is a budget machine, so we can forgive this. More impressive is the Edge's newly designed raised keyboard -- a replacement to the venerable ThinkPad tapered keyboard. The slightly concave keys do a good job of mimicking the feel of a traditional Lenovo keyboard and prevent the slipping that can occur on some raised keyboards.
The larger multi-touch touchpad also feels very comfortable, along with the ample, smooth, matte-surfaced palm rest. Those who loved the old trackpoint nubbin can rest assured that it's been retained. The Edge's entire lower half, including the keyboard, touchpad and palm rest, constitutes our favourite part of this machine. It might be the most comfortable raised keyboard we've ever used, and the large touchpad is excellent.
The 1,366x768-pixel screen is as bright and clear as those of other ThinkPad laptops. The system's sound, however, is slightly soft. The Edge is designed as a business thin-and-light laptop, but the embedded speakers aren't ideal for media playback.
With three USB ports, an HDMI port, a VGA socket and a memory-card reader, the Edge's connections are fairly standard. Although the Edge has an ultra-low-voltage processor, it's neither thin nor light enough to merit dropping the DVD/CD burner. We wish it had either been included or the Edge made even slimmer. It seems that many people still desire optical drives in larger laptops, and the omission here simply doesn't seem necessary.
Typical ULV performance
The Edge, in its lower-cost iteration, comes with a dual-core 1.6GHz AMD Turion Neo X2 L625 CPU. The Intel model uses a 1.3GHz Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor. All run Windows 7 Professional as opposed to the more common Home Premium. Our Intel configuration responded snappily and performed on a similar level to other machines with the same CPU in anecdotal usage: great for everyday work and decent for media consumption, but not ideal for any sort of gaming or video editing.
The Edge's included six-cell battery lasted for 5 hours and 20 minutes when subjected to our benchmark tests. That's what we'd expect from a dual-core ULV laptop delivering continuous video playback. It's a good showing, and the battery life should exceed that under lower-intensity work conditions and if you adjust the power settings.
At the lower end of the range, the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge could represent great value for someone looking for a thin laptop with business software built in. But, when the price starts rising, you might find yourself a better deal elsewhere.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet